Photography by Katharine Wilson (Katharine Wilson)
Photography by Katharine Wilson

Katharine Wilson

Riverside Mayor Election: An interview with Melendrez and Lock-Dawson

October 30, 2020

The Riverside Mayoral election will occur in the Nov. 3 election. Andy Melendrez, a city council member, and Patricia Lock-Dawson, a school board member, are the two candidates running for this seat. Both candidates are Democrats with Melendrez being endorsed by the Riverside County Democratic Party and the Democrats of Greater Riverside. Lock-Dawson is endorsed by current Mayor Rusty Bailey. Melendrez is also the owner of a local vocational rehabilitation business, and founded the Riverside Arts Academy as well as the Riverside Opera Camp. Lock-Dawson is an environmental scientist, a business owner and a member of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. We interviewed both candidates and here are their responses:

North Star: What is something about the city you would like to change?

Andy Melendrez: The homeless issue is a matter that we must resolve. Although the homeless that we see on the streets have found their way to Riverside by being dropped off, directed, or placed here by another agency. We must work with surrounding cities, nonprofit agencies, joint powers, churches and the county to address the issues comprehensively. The second item would be to improve public transportation throughout our city.

Patricia Lock-Dawson: It is no secret that we have a homelessness crisis and it should be the primary focus of the next mayor. Homlessness increased 33% in the last year, and had a 30% increase the year prior. The previous inaction and inability to build a regional plan for addressing the needs of the homeless and their families has magnified an already serious challenge. My plan for a regional approach allows Riverside and other surrounding cities to partner together and utilize the strength as a region to gain access to more state and federal dollars. This funding can help with mental health services, addiction rehabilitation, affordable housing, and job training. I know I can achieve this because I have a record of working regionally and delivering funds. In the past, I worked with a coalition of over 17 cities in our region and brought in more than $185 million for Riverside. It is these experiences that make me uniquely qualified to hit the ground running on day one as mayor. 

North Star: What do you believe is the best way to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic (shut downs, schools, businesses)? 

Andy Melendrez: Obviously COVID-19 has been a major impact to our economy. Many of our smaller businesses have opened up by implementing precautionary measures. We have also utilized flexible municipal codes to allow the opening of the businesses. We must develop a comprehensive small business plan in partnership with the small business development centers, small business administration and our economic development department that will formulate the type of support the small businesses need. Although we have received CARES Act money and Community Development Block Grant money these are only temporary fixes. A long-term sustainable plan must be implemented to help small businesses. As for the schools they are a separate government entity from City Hall. However, I have worked cooperatively in offering up our libraries and recreational centers for learning centers during COVID-19.

Patricia Lock-Dawson: As a scientist myself, I cannot stress enough the need to follow the science and use that as a guide for any public policy decisions in regards to reopening. Riverside County is beginning, once again, a backward trend and an increase in COVID-19 infections. We know that masks, physical distancing, and regular hand washing are simple steps to slow the spread–and we should be following these successful steps. As a small business owner, I also have a personal connection to the pain local businesses are facing with months of closures. I believe with preventative measures and safety protocol, local small businesses can reopen with limited numbers. This is a way to prioritize both the physical and economic health of Riversiders–and no matter what is said, these two can live in harmony and are not mutually exclusive. 

North Star (to Melendrez):How has being on the Riverside City Council influenced your life/ the way you would want to run the city? 

Andy Melendrez: Having served almost 15 years as a City Council member provides a clear understanding of the needs of our city. It also provides a firm understanding of city government and how it works. Our city is the 13th largest city in the State of California and requires an individual that is knowledgeable in city government and understands the intricacies of each department. I have a firm understanding of the types of investments that need to be made in the city to prepare us for the future. Our city has tremendous potential and many talented individuals that can help us advance the city in leaps and bounds. My experience as a city council member has provided me valuable experience in understanding the city and the needs of the community.

North Star (to Lock-Dawson): How has being a school board member influenced your life/ the way you would want to run the city?

Patricia Lock-Dawson: Having served on the school board for close to a decade, it has reinstated on a daily basis the value and weight that the decisions made by a mayor can carry. For the last nine years I was able to see up-close the struggles and triumphs of students and teachers in RUSD and it has been a grounding experience; one that provides purpose and exposes the impact of each vote made at the city and school district levels. Being a School Board Trustee has provided me with a unique perspective to be able to have a hands-on interaction with our city’s future leaders and how the decisions we make today can impact their lives for decades to come.

North Star: A prevalent area of concern for many students in the North area is equity (especially about schools, quality of life ect.), how would you address these inequalities as mayor?

Andy Melendrez: City Hall must serve as an example of equity. Having a workforce that reflects the demographics of the community. We must also work towards ensuring that every community of our city has access to the appropriate education, healthcare and related services. 

Patricia Lock-Dawson: As a school board member at Riverside Unified School District, I pledged to serve all students, ensuring equitable access to opportunities. I have spent my entire tenure as a board member working for equity. My record over the last decade showcases the results I have secured in order to establish a more equitable RUSD. During this time we established the Heritage Program which has aided in increasing college-readiness for African American students by 160% and Latinx student college readiness has also seen increases–by 100%. The RUSD Board expanded Career Technical Education from only three to over forty pathways for students that are seeking specialized skills. I will take this record and awareness with me to the mayor’s seat and will work tirelessly to look for opportunity shortfalls and housing and education disparities to ensure all Riversiders have all that is necessary to thrive in our city.  

North Star: What are your qualifications and why do you feel that you would make a successful mayor? 

Andy Melendrez: My nearly 15 years of City Council experience is unmatched by any current Councilmember or Candidate. Understanding the intricacies of city government, working closely with staff, community, businesses, investors, public utilities and serving on various regional boards has prepared me well to serve as mayor. I will need no training and I will be ready to move this city forward on day one. Experience matters and is needed to move the 13th largest city in the state of California forward.

Patricia Lock-Dawson: My qualifications are my extensive professional experiences. Over the course of my career, I have worked at every level of government. The federal level at the Bureau of Land Management, where I developed large scale land use plans, the state level in administrations of two California governors as Vice-Chair of the State Board of Behavioral Sciences, the county level leading a 17-city coalition focused on the Santa Ana River, the school district level as an elected Riverside Unified School District Trustee from 2011-present where I led efforts that raised our graduation rates from 81%-97% and the city level as the Chairperson of Riverside’s Planning Commission where I advocated for more affordable housing and new libraries and community centers. Knowing how each level of government operates, and having connections at each level, is critical to being able to deliver results. It is these diverse experiences that make me the most qualified candidate.

North Star: Who do you think is the most influential person who has endorsed your campaign?

Andy Melendrez: The most influential individuals have been the community. Understanding their needs and making every attempt to address them. Working hard every day and dedicating myself to improving the quality of life is what is important. I have gained my inspiration from two great leaders, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. Both have been inspiring and fought to improve the quality of life for those who have been marginalized. I will continue to work for them and the entire city to move us forward as your mayor. I have also received endorsements from Congressman Mark Takano, Assemblymember Jose Medina and Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes.

Patricia Lock-Dawson: When it comes to individual people, there are two that stand out: Mayor Rusty Bailey and former Mayor Ron Loveridge. These two mayors have led Riverside through much over the last three decades and know what it takes to be a successful mayor. They have endorsed me because I exhibit those qualities. On a more personal level, having the endorsement of Riverside’s Teachers Association means a lot to me. I have worked side by side with education in Riverside for a decade and am honored to have Riverside’s educators in my corner. 

For more information on each candidate: andymelendrez.com and patriciaforriverside.com

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